Sail Away To New Caledonia

Whether a nautical fanatic, competitive racer, slow paced drifter or professional front deck sunbather, jump on board, hoist the sails (or watch someone else do it) and cruise into the sunset, whilst indulging in champagne, exotic cheeses and mouth-watering seafoodSound appealing? In just two hours from Brisbane, less than three hours from Sydney and under four hours from Melbourne, guests can be kicking back, enjoying this French infused destination, encircled by crystal clear waters and soul warming sunshine.  

From serious luxury yachting to the traditional wooden boat, here guests will find everything their inner sailor desires.  Choose from an exotic menu of boating options from yacht charters, with or without a skipper or host; cruises à la carte lasting several days; trips on the Great Southern Seas following the whale route; cruising via catamaran; or even just a water taxi to the islands closest to Noumea. New Caledonia is elegant French sophistication on Australia’s doorstep and with much better weather than its European motherland.

Here are some tips on why sailing in New Caledonia should be top of everyone’s holiday bucket list this summer:

Sail one of the world’s largest lagoons

New Caledonia is already regarded as an ecological hotspot, home to one of the world’s largest coastal lagoons and UNESCO World Heritage site in their backyard, but now this natural wonder has added another to the list.

Covering more than 1.3 million square kilometres, New Caledonia is home to Le Parc Naturel de la Mer de Corail or the Natural Park of the Coral Sea. The marine park is larger than Alaska, twice the size of Texas, three times the size of Germany and is one of the largest protected areas on the planet. The area covers around 450,000 hectares of coral reefs, 25 species of marine mammals, 48 shark species, 19 species of nesting birds and five species of sea turtles. 

Another jewel in the New Caledonia crown is the Isle of Pines, located at the southern tip and only 80km from Noumea, Isle of Pines is a fabulous yachting destination full of adventure and unlimited anchorages with crystal clear water and sandy beaches.  Upon arrival, sailors will be drawn in by the most magnificent bays in the world – a perfect place to start exploring this exclusive paradise.  

Be the captain of the ship  

Guests can charter an individual yacht and become their own captain, as they navigate New Caledonia and its surrounding islands. Enjoy the freedom of waking in the morning to decide where the day will lead.

From day sailing to one or two week cruises exploring the east coast, New Caledonia is the ultimate sailing destination where the tradewinds blow regularly and the array of small islands offer sheltered hideaways. Sailors can expect breezes of about 15-25 knots during the coming warm season, so with virtually no currents and tides that rarely exceed one metre, sailing the world’s largest lagoon is a breeze.

When it comes to mooring to head off and explore, there are several modern marinas equip to house all types of boat. Hulls less than 15 feet are welcomed everywhere, both in the marina of the Southern Port in Noumea and elsewhere on the Grande Terre (mainland) and islands. Port Moselle Marina, in the capital, accepts boats up to a length of 25 meters and the godfather’s of all boats, the Super Yachts can moor at the Quai des Scientifiques (Scientists Wharf), at the Quai des Paquebots (Cruise liners Wharf) or at the Quai du Musée Maritime (Maritime Museum Wharf).

For a competitive edge  

Held yearly in June, the Great Lagoon Regatta attracts sailors from around the world to sail from Noumea through the world’s largest coral reef lagoon to IIot Kouare in the southern lagoon. The regatta circuit has been developed to convey the lagoon’s natural beauty and exquisite marine life. Participants don’t have to be avid sailors to get in amongst the action; this adventure is the perfect combination of nightlife and daytime exploration of the immaculate water views.

For those keen sailors who can’t wait until next year, there is still time to register for the New Caledonia Groupama Race, which kicks off on 19 October, 2014. In its fourth year, the event will once again unite sailors from all corners, in their quest to navigate and maneuver through the blue waters of New Caledonia for three to five days, covering over  1,500km. This is a test of physical and mental endurance as participants fight the urge to kick-back and bask in the sunshine, sipping on French champagne to cross the line first.  This year’s event will also include a new virtual regatta element with live skipper, so for those couch sailors this is an opportunity get a taste before signing up next year.

Cruising via catamaran 

A catamaran charter is one of the best ways to explore the picturesque sights New Caledonia has to offer. By hiring a catamaran, rookie sailors can embark and travel to as little or as many islands they desire and at their own pace. New Caledonia offers year round sailing conditions, but for catamaraning April to November offer the best sailing conditions with approximately half metre tidal range and negligible currents. For the novice sailor, the Catamaran (the modern cruising cat, built of light weight FRP/foam construction) is said to be virtually unsinkable, so perhaps the best option if the novice caption in the group is questionable.  

With its incredible diversity and beauty, deserted islands, reefs, and abundant marine life this South Pacific paradise is a must on any sailors list, whether they are a member of the Australian Sailing or has a thirst for a holiday with a different….cast off this summer in New Caledonia.

For more information on New Caledonia visit

August 28, 2014


I spent nine idyllic days on Mykonos making friends with the natives. I spent most of those nine days on the boats sailing from beach to beach, smelling suntan lotion and souvlaki, watching bikini-clad and completely bare hedonists find their spot on the sand. Day after day, I was a treasured guest on ancient boats that had been handed down from one male member of the family to the next. My hands and feet drifted along in the cold ocean rhythm. I found peace in the long hot hours in the sun, zoning out amidst the many mingled foreign voices I couldn?t understand and didn?t need to comprehend.As unwound as I?d ever been, I began to develop something for Georgos, one of the captains. In his early forties, with a macho gruffness, he was like the king of the island. His face was weathered, his teeth not all present

under a thick long moustache, but his entire body was like a moving sculpture of milk chocolate. Every day I?d quietly watch him entertain his passengers: standing on one hand, dancing around the boat, pulling all sizes and shapes of people onto his lap, nonchalantly steering the boat with his bare foot on the tiller. After just a few days, I too could be found only on this aging Adonis of a man?s stern.By the end of the trip, when he cooked octopus and crab and kept filling my glass with ouzo, I slipped into bed with him. Like the sea urchins he caught and shucked for lunch one day, he was prickly on the outside, but raw and vulnerable when alone in his home. The next morning it seemed as if the whole island knew that Georgos had found his woman. He asked me to stay, but I left the island two days later, pushing myself forward into uncertainty.

Sailing by Lisa Guest will appear in Rite Of Passage: Tales of Backpacking ?Round Europe to be published in March 2003 by Lonely Planet Publications.

Rite of Passage: Backpacking ‘Round Europe

Edited by Lisa Johnson

ISBN 1 74059 593 9

Available March 2003

256 pp


This eclectic, contemporary anthology drawn from literary magazines, websites and backpacking newsgroups records the trails and tribulations of young people heading to Europe for the trip of a lifetime. From the company that helped start the trend, this is a funny, touching and sometimes mad collection of first-hand experiences that bring new life to a well-told tale.

Available at all good bookstores.

February 4, 2003